Prototype Talk: Tandem - Lets Discuss!

Many of our faithful blog readers are also our most dedicated customers.  We know you are passionate about what you want from Salsa, we hear it in every post.

Due to this, we wanted to try something new.  We want to use the blog to show a project, all the way from prototype to finished product, document the steps along the way, and take your input during all these steps.  This will be the first product to take this route, but it wont be the last. 

I would like to introduce you to our Tandem Prototype.  The inspiration for this project came a few years back when my wife rode her first Short and Fat race (part of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival), and noticed all of the tandems.  She remarked to me that it would be fun to do that some year.  I agreed, it looked like a blast.  With that in mind, we created two prototypes of a mountain 29er tandem, loosely basing the geometry off of the El Mariachi. 

Most of our rough prototypes are born from the ideas, wants, desires and bad ideas in the heads of the Salsa staff.  Some end up going nowhere, some end up as very popular products, such as the Fargo.  With this tandem, we know its a good idea, it just needs refinement. 

Thats where you come in.  On this project we have opened up to you, we want your opinion.  Weigh in with your thoughts.  Tell us what you want to see as the final product.  Tell us what you think is wrong with our prototype.  We have our own ideas here from riding it, but we know that a good variety of opinions helps shape a better product.  Our plan is to have several additional blog posts throughout the life of this project, showing you our progress and giving you a glimpse into what we do to insure we create good products.

Odia happy after her first tandem race:

Rich putting the fixed dropout version through some battle testing:

For the tech geeks out there, I am not going to post geometry.  I would like to hear your thoughts instead.  But I will post a few details about this prototype.  Always keep in mind, these details may or may not make the production version. 

  • Standard 135mm rear hub spacing
  • Alternator dropout (a second prototype was also made with a fixed dropout)
  • 16"/20" size
  • Eccentric front BB

And for those of you curious about the spec I used to build this one:

  • Sram X9 2x10 kit
  • Drive-side mounted timing chain using XT and The Hive cranksets
  • Hope Tech M4 brakes with XTR 180mm rotors
  • XTR on Stan's Arch wheelset
  • Marzocchi 44 Ti through-axle fork
  • uber-reliable Cane Creek 110 headset and Thudbuster LT seatposts

Thats it!  Tell us what you think.

This post filed under topics: Prototype Tandem Tim Krueger

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Tim Krueger

Tim Krueger

I come from the land of trees, lakes and cheese. I like beef jerky, singletrack and pale ale. I believe derailleurs were invented for a very good reason. Long rides with good friends and campfires is really what its all about. Oh, and if its not anodized, its worthless.


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EROman | October 22nd, 2010

looks like I need to start saving…and get some health insurance…

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mikE | October 22nd, 2010

Cool.  I like the concept.

I don’t understand the point of the alternator drop-out though.  Does anyone ride a singlespeed tandem?  With that much weight I’d feel more comfortable with a fixed dropout too.

The thudbusters are a nice touch, but it gives the backseat rider less options for hand positions.



Tim | October 22nd, 2010

Thanks Mike - Im not sure if people ride singlespeed tandem, but when we make an “idea” or “rough” prototype, they tend to have all ideas thrown at them to see what works.  It may or may not actually happen.

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Chris | October 22nd, 2010

Cool ride, being a one-time mountain bike tandem owner, I see little use for the front Thudbuster. The wheelbase is long enough that the captain won’t benefit from it. GREAT call on having it for the stoker though - they can’t often see what’s ahead and can’t brace for a potential shock.

145x12mm rear dropouts would be nice for stiffness but would limit wheel compatibility.

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Ben | October 22nd, 2010

Cheers Tim, this one’s a winner.  I gotta say though, an Arches?

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Nick | October 22nd, 2010

Squinting and trying to visualize with woodchippers, bar and saddle bags and four (!!) custom frame bags!!

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Bill | October 22nd, 2010

How about some bonehead-resistant Velocity Blunt rims?


Tim | October 22nd, 2010

One thing to keep in mind - the spec is just how I built it for test riding.  This is not suggestive or representative of what we think a tandem spec should be.  Its just my own “whats around the workshop” kit to get it going.

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Killer | October 22nd, 2010

As a current tandem owner- I love this idea. Some thoughts, though-

- Alternator dropout is probably a bad idea. Singlespeeding and tandems just don’t seem to make much sense since you would need to stand and crank together instead of being able to sit and spin.

- Stronger rims- especially for off-road use. It’s hard to ride with finesse on a tandem and rocks would likely kill these wheels. Also- is tubeless a good idea when your total team weight will likely be in the 300-400lb range (more a question for Stan’s)?

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Mike | October 22nd, 2010

Something tells me that a straight, one-piece direct lateral tube (captain’s seat tube piercing it) would be stronger and more resistant to twisting than the two-tube design on the prototype.  And it would be more aesthetically pleasing (to me).  I like where the concept is going, though.  And I did see a tandem racing at single speed worlds in Napa a couple of years ago.  Rare, though.

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Plum | October 22nd, 2010

If you’re gonna do the alternator dropouts, the big advantage there would be running an IGH, like a rohloff, do you offer or plan to offer a rohloff compatible version of the alternators?

Looks great though..


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Cali-Steve | October 22nd, 2010

Nice!  As a two tandem owner (mtb and road), I’m all for a 29er tandem.  Wish our mtb was a 29er.  I know that there is one out there from Ventana.  I’d like to see the Alternator Dropout as an option.  My stoker and I both ride one speed single bikes (her’s being the original El Mariachi) and would enjoy a one speed tandem.  It was fun to watch Henry and Amy at SSWC 2008 on their one speed tandem!

As for your build, hey, use what ya got!

Who built this one?

Build it and they will come…

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James | October 22nd, 2010

It always seemed to me that the person in the back gets to see nothing but the backside of the person in front.  That always made me wonder why people like tandems…  But anyway, is there any way that a tandem can be designed to accomodate different sizes of (what do you call the person in back…  stoker?) people in the rear?  Perhaps a really slack seat tube angle ala Xtracycle Radish?  That way the captain/driver could take different people along for the ride or if the couple that bought it broke up, you could put someone else back there.

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Jerry | October 22nd, 2010

double mariachi. cool.  how does it ride?

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Dave | October 22nd, 2010

Very nice!!! Great design and concept. I like the timing chain idea on the right eliminating the need for tandem specific cranks. The slider dropouts in the rear look awesome….I’d go SS on a tandem if I had the option to. Very, very nice!!!

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Scott | October 22nd, 2010

I’ll second the need for a wider rear dropout - maybe even to a 160mm - special hubs for more rear-wheel spoke triangulation?  Special parts for a special bike!  Lateral loads on the rear of a tandem can get pretty high - and with the larger wheels that would be a help to widen the rear!  Nice to see you have enough faith in the standard rear dropout assemblies to ride double in the dirt with them.  Now the real question:  Ya gonna build one in Ti?  :o)

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DC | October 22nd, 2010

Love the tandem idea! Alternators wouldn’t make or break it for me, but would likely prefer the security of a regular dropout.  Nice touches with the thudbuster, cc110, etc.  Altho, my dream tandem would be a more multi-purpose, most-anything-you’d-call-a-road rig like the Vaya. But that’s just how I’d be able to justify it with my bride!  “Look, we can ride it practically anywhere!”

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Matty C | October 22nd, 2010

For a dedicated mountain bike this design is fabulous and I’d love to see Salsa produce a (titanium!) tandem.  I wonder though whether a more Fargo-esque tandem would be a more versatile first foray?  I can’t imagine piloting a tandem 29er around the single-track that I ride regularly in NorCal.  Tight switchbacks seem impassible. What about deep, nasty rock gardens?  I’d like to purchase a bike more oriented towards gravel and fire-road adventuring that would suffice on single-track.  Chances are I’m going have just one tandem in the stable so I’d like it be as versatile as possible. A “Fargo-dem” would even be able to tour roads with 700x40’s or 35’s. If this bike is not titanium, keep the color bright!  I’d like to see a canary yellow tandem with mellow graphics…

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perttime | October 22nd, 2010

OK, I have never ridden a tandem… but why exactly a 29er?

I have understood that a tandem can be hard on wheels and tires. Tough 26” wheels are easy to come by, as are high volume 26” tires. Thinking something like Racing Ralph or Fat Albert 2.4”, or bigger.

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Kong 29 | October 22nd, 2010

Awesome.. A 29er Tandem Want one.

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Bill | October 22nd, 2010

I would use Stan’s Flow rims for a tandem.

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Erik | October 22nd, 2010

+1 on Rohloff compatability if you do (or even if you don’t) use the Alternator dropout.

+1 on Fargo-esque for the exact reasons Matty C described.

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Jeff | October 22nd, 2010

Bigger brakes, 180mm rotors are not going to slow that thing down a wet steep hill with a robust captain and stoker, also 12mm rear through axle to help reduce the rear end flex and disc brake drag under hard climbing.

A big team, Captain 200lbs, Stoker 140lbs, Tandem 50lbs Camel backs 15-20lbs 400lbs plus,

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Pottser | October 22nd, 2010

This is ? great surprise. The combination of 29er wheels and.? tandem is super. I own a 26 inch. Big wheels on ? tandem are fast.  I would change the hub spacing to 145 km builde ? strongervwheels, although this makes ? rohloff impossible (i believe). I don’t see the use of the dropout and would prefer a fixed one. I once rode my tandem singlespeed and although this was fun… I never did this again. I thinking staying close to ? fargo makes more sense for me. The stability, gravelgrinder-style and allround geometry of the Fargo is perfect for ? tandem. You can ride the Fargo anywhere.. Even the forkchoice of the 2011 Fargo seems good for this tandem. Keep us updated…....

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zouch | October 22nd, 2010

have you talked to Rick Jorgensen (of Tango, and the designer of the Ibis Up-Tube tandem)? he’s probably done more relevant testing of the lateral stresses on tandems than anyone, and might have some useful input.

tip-o’-the hat to you for not getting sucked into thinking you needed a non-standard rear axle width; our Ibis tandem has been proving that a 135mm rear axle is fine on a Mtn tandem for over a decade already.

as for component choices; don’t sweat that now; that’s all changeable, but keeping things standardized will help facilitate that.

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Dan | October 22nd, 2010

Very nice spec overall!

The things I would change if it were my bike:

DT X470 Rims instead of Stans

BB7 disc brakes with 203mm front rotor

ability to run a rear rack, for some light off-road touring to a trailside campsite, for example :)

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yamric | October 22nd, 2010

The wife and I have been looking at tandems, looks like we will wait now until this is released. Because the stoker gets beat up back there we ran a shock absorbing stoker stem and seat post make my wife a much happier person. but those were personal add-ons.

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Male | October 22nd, 2010

I call front seat

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Alex | October 22nd, 2010

Riding a Tandem myself (with my wife), i suggest, you take the following points into consideration:

1. Space the rear wheel at least at 145, better 160mm. This will allow dishless wheels, which are much stronger. The extra strength will be needed.

2. Use 36 Spoke-wheels - this will greatly increase the number of choices of the rims. 48 and especially 40-hole-rims are hard to find.

3. Make the stoker-compartment long enough. Many tandems suffer in that regard.

4. Put the timing-chain to the left to allow a 3/9 or 3/10-Setup. Your gear-range can not be high enough. You need smaler gears uphill, because swaying the bike while standing on the pedals is hard to coordinate and takes a fearless stoker. On the other hand you need large gears because you can get really fast with tandems.

5. Provide braze-ons for fenders racks etc. and build a touring-version without suspension.

6. A suspension-seatpost for the captain is kind of useless, because even the stiffest frames should dampen every dump before it reches the captains seatpost.

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Gary | October 22nd, 2010

First off we are still somewhat new to our tandem bike, just got it it June. We are starting to get our act together but find one issue still a bit frustrating for us, needing to keep peddling to down shift. For example, the light turns red at the last second, or any short notice stop, stoker stops peddling, we came to a stop in a high gear, light turns green and off with an ugh and tottering until we can get up to speed or manage to downshift. I have politely reminded my stoker the need to keep pedaling so I can downshift over and over again. If there was an application that would benefit from an internal gear hub this is it. Just click to a correct gear while at a standstill, or maybe we will just get better at it!

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dicky | October 22nd, 2010

Wider rear spacing.

Flow rims.

Big rotors.

Sizing?  Maybe 18/16?

I don’t know if many folks would bother running it SS, but if I owned it I would for sure.

You might be onto something since the starting point to get into the tandem MTB world is quite high $$‘s.  It could be tandem equivalent to what the Pugsley was to snowbikes.

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Zack | October 22nd, 2010

Whoa! That’s cool. Of course I want one. You guys are scaring me.

Alex has a good set of recommendations up there a few spaces. Multiple Salsa and 700c tandem owner here (old Trek that won’t quite take a “real” 29er tire). I think the alternator dropouts are asking for trouble, and doubtless increase the price. Please use 160mm rear spacing. Just do it and be done with it. Hubs for that spacing are easy to find and tandems are notoriously hard on rear wheels. Ours had some old Smokes on it for a time, and I seemed to be unable to avoid hitting every rock in the trail with the rear tire.

Don’t dink around with the drivetrain, either. My current tandem is geared 52-38-26 with an 11-28 7 speed cassette, and silly as it sounds, I have no intention of changing it. Two reasonably healthy adults can push that tallest gear with no trouble. Tandem-specific cranksets are expensive, but damn well worth it.

Big honkin’ hydraulic discs, for sure.

Beautiful prototype there. Tandems are a blast!

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Jason W. | October 22nd, 2010

This looks like an awesome idea. I am totally into it. Even though built as a MTN bike, I could still see building with a rigid fork for riding on the road. I like the idea of a SS or geared build. Though, I could agree with the 145-160mm spacing for wheel strength. Possibly bending the stoker seat-stay to shorten wheelbase.
  The limitation of sweet mountain-tandem crank sets is a definite point. Too bad Race Face doesn’t make Turbine LP’s in a tandem configuration these days.
  My last bit of input, is making a XL/S (22/16) front/back so I could fit my tallness and my partner’s smallness.

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Eli | October 22nd, 2010

I recognize this is somewhat off topic, is there any interest in the Salsa community in a FS 650b bike? If so, would Salsa give any consideration into building a prototype?

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KenE | October 22nd, 2010

I want belt drive and a Rohloaff and TI.  Seams this combo would be the best low mantaince for gravel grinding.  Need some type of lockout on the fork for hill climbing.  Rack mounts.  TI did I say TI!  Other then that, how bout a cyclecross version and a Full suspension 29er

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Matt | October 22nd, 2010

If you build it based off a fargo, as mentioned above, I’m guessing you’ll get more philosophical and financial buy in from the potential stoker population.  In turn you’d be creating the market, a couple years out, for a Mariachi based tandem.

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dicky | October 23rd, 2010

I think going high end on the frame(Ti)you’ll miss the mark.  There are plenty of other high $$$‘s tandem frames already out there.  Sure, you could have Lynskey weld them up and hit a price point below some other tandems, but why not help bring tandems to the masses.  If the bike is a success then maybe consider a high end option (like you did with the El Mariachi).  Good concept for building brand loyalty.

Also consider having the 20mm rigid fork as an option with the frame.

I only wish this would have been going on a few years ago when my I was feeling “lucrative” and searching eBay for a mtn tandem.

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Wally | October 23rd, 2010

I opened this up hoping to find something on the cusp of conceptual engineering, a new radical idea, something cool and exciting. Maybe next time? 
If you want to build something try a bike using S&S couplers, something using the Vaya as a base. An adventure by bike company should have a travel bike. Luckily you sister company does.

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Brendan | October 23rd, 2010

Great idea. Keep it affordable and I’ll be looking at one. I’d make a flask holder standard to keep the stoker calm.

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Rob Perks | October 23rd, 2010

Very nice idea.
Think fargo, Think steel, think clean lines fron to back not bent tubes.  Make sure you have a size that will work for a 6’4” captin and a 5’1” stoker.  Keep the seat tubes thin enough so that it will still take a kid back stoker kit. 

29er is ok, 26 is strong, 650b 2.6” with disks allows for almost any wheel you could ever want to run.

Rear spacign needs to be at least 145, and no moving parts.

do your homework on geometric trail and handling, this is NOT a single bike

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Mad Cat B=Mike | October 23rd, 2010

I like!  The SS option is nice, especially if it won’t adversely affect a geared setup.  Like Steve mentioned above, there are couples out there who are die-hard SS’ers as well as tandem riders.  My wife and I would want to try a SS tandem 29, but we’d probably have it geared most of the time.

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Zack | October 23rd, 2010

Single speeds are cool and all (I have one) but I can’t imagine it’s worth bastardizing a production tandem so a few people can try it. It would be interesting to hear from someone who has actually tried it. One of the most irritating things about my tandem was the stock gearing. You could “spin out” of the top gear with just about no effort. Cool as the alternator dropouts are, I don’t think they belong on a bike where every force is multiplied by at least two. At any rate, 135mm rear spacing would be a deal killer for me. Tandems are demanding enough without constant wheel trouble.

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christophv. | October 23rd, 2010

I’ll buy one as soon as .... one to switzerland   :D

i wanted to go custom tu have a singlespeed 29er tandem, there is a guy in france who bilds things like that ....

i don’t know many people woh would ride a singlespped tandem but many people who ride their tandem bikes with rohloff hubs

i really like that

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Simon | October 23rd, 2010

Why have you got a tapered headtube on the new Spearfish, a single bike and only a 11/8” headtube on a tandem. Please a tapered headtube and min 145mm rear end also having thru cable outers would be nice to keep the mud, dust and sticky powerdrink out of the cables. What about a rear shock!!

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jp | October 23rd, 2010

Nice!  I love that you’re doing stuff like this.  Getting feedback directly from your fans/customers as you work on a prototype is smarter than getting it from other, less subjective friends (e.g. dealers, bloggers, reviewers, etc).  It’s also fun for us fans/customers.  I can’t wait ‘till you do this with a new, steel road bike prototype…

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DS | October 23rd, 2010

Meh, get to work on the Selma.

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Fernand Naudin | October 24th, 2010

I am just building an EL Mariachi for one of my customer, and I think it is a gorgeous bike.
The tandem is just double gorgeous.
Keep the rear end the way it is, because I know some weirdos around her who ride singlespeed tandems (I may be one of them). Keem also in mind that the captain is not always the taller of the pack.
Good luck !

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Jeff B | October 24th, 2010

As interesting as a single speed tandem might be, as a heavy tandem team, (425-445) depending on stoker, we use everyone of the 18 gears on our 80’s era Burly.  Seems we climb more in granny gear than spend time winding out in high, though it happens.  Also not sure disc brakes will take the abuse/heat of a long downhill. I have front and rear canti’s and an Ari drum for long descents.

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Wes Prince | October 24th, 2010

I’m a long time mt tandem owner / rider. 29er tandem is a great idea. My suggestions are - 145 rear hub, 200mm rotors, vertical dropouts, full suspension option with at least 150mm travel, at least 3 frame sizes. Where does this 1 size fits all mentality for tandems come from? Several examples of previous attempts at one size fits all for tandems have been tried. You wouldn’t dream of doing it for a single. So why a tandem?

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chris | October 24th, 2010

make it more like a fargo…. dropped bars, tons of braze-ons and mounts. rigid fork with suspension corrected geometry.
I’d buy one.

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salsaction | October 24th, 2010

Chris’s Fargo tandem idea: +1

I’d like to put forth a motion for a Pistola ProtoTIpe proyect where we get to provide our input to Salsa.  Anyone seconds it?

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Brent | October 24th, 2010

Love, love, love! 145mm rear spacing, all braze-ons, and rigid fork!

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perttime | October 24th, 2010

What’s it for anyway?

Trekking bike for dirt roads?
Mountain bike for going over some roots and rocks too?

If you want it light for gravel crunching, the 135 mm hubs and adjustable dropouts should do fine.
If you want to hit rougher surfaces, go 150 mm DH hubs (widely available) and fixed dropouts. Big brake rotors too, or maybe add a rim brake for the stoker, for long downhills…

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KJR29 | October 24th, 2010

Fantastic -

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Kevin M | October 24th, 2010

I’d suggest having mounts for running completely enclosed cable housing back to the rear derailler. Thats a lot of exposed cable to get mucked up.

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Spinistry | October 25th, 2010

Would much rather see a Fargo type tandem but would welcome either. Nothing wrong with the Alternator dropout if it proves durable enough. The more options for setup the better imo.

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Allen Beauchamp | October 25th, 2010

It just keeps getting better from our friends at Salsa!

Having many years of tandeming between us, I can say our mtn tandem is the most enjoyable bike in our stable. I’m dreaming of a new one (dual susp) and was contemplating a 69er setup for the benefit of the best in class rolling characteristics of the large front.

And now this! I agree with wider spacing in the rear and a wide gear ratio (we live in the Rockies). Congrats on rolling out the new prototype, we look forward to seeing it evolve.

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Sven Cole | October 25th, 2010

Where is the buy it now option? Love it.

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blockhead | October 25th, 2010

I agree with Simon.  A tapered head tube would make a lot of sense on a tandem.  A nice 1.5” lower steerer tube and crown would help take a lot of flex out of the front end given twice the extra forces being applied to the front of the frame. 

You didn’t mention frame material but how about out of the new EV6 alloy your using currently??  Hydroformed front end would allow for more strength/rigidity and you can keep the weight down will aluminum.

I guess I also don’t see the point of the alternator dropouts for a tandem.  How about some flattened chain/seat stays ala the Chill Con Crosso for a little extra vertical compliance?  Or a carbon rear end like Mamasita/Selma?  Or hell why not just go with a beefed up Spearfish rear suspension?

Last but not least.  I ride the Chequamegon 40 just about every year (that I can get lottery entry) and I always see the same thing with tandems suffering broken chains.  Do you really think the 10 speed drivetrain can handle the extra load/abuse?

Cool idea though….29’er tandem.  Can’t say I’ve heard of that one yet.

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MG | October 25th, 2010

Just put me on the list for whatever we end up with… Laura and I have been threatening to buy a tandem for 15 years now.  Time’s up.

I’m serious.  Put me on the list.  It’s ahead of the Ti Fargo.

I’m e-mailing Laura now.


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MG | October 25th, 2010

Oh, and I vote for alloy due to stiffness, weight and cost concerns.  Keep the Alternators.  Holler at me if you want to discuss anything else.

Thanks Tim,

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Jerry | October 25th, 2010

could you ride a wheelie on a tandem?  I’d pay to see that.

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Gunnar | October 25th, 2010

This is pretty awesome. Would love to get one.

I understand the comments for a stronger wheel with wider spacing, but I like the flexibility of 135 spacing and using standard mtb hubs. 4 or more bottle mounts is a must. Not so sure on rack mounts. Rigid fork option would be nice for road rides. No sense with a singlespeed option. Would be nice to have enough room in the stokers cockpit to allow for different sized stokers. Big discs are a must. Is it possible to run dual discs on the front? Tapered head tube sounds like it would make sense too. Finally I say to keep the geometry mountain bike specific. It will still work for gravel grinding and even riding a road century, but you’re not gonna be able to take a ‘Fargo’-esqe tandem on technical singletrack.

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Gunnar | October 25th, 2010

Oh, almost forgot, ditch the drive-side timing chain. Go with a standard left side timing, and keep with a triple option on the drivetrain.

If you want to get way out there, maybe a modified DI-2 shifting so you don’t have to worry about the long runs of cable to stretch out.

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Danno | October 25th, 2010

Great prototype!  Although most of this has already been said, here?s my .02 cents
1. No need for the thudbuster seatpost upfront, but get the longer travel one for the stoker.
2. Wider spacing.  You can get away with 135 spacing on 26? but it will likely be problematic on the 29er tandem.
3. Tapered headtube makes sense (while you?re at it, try to convince someone to make a stronger 29er fork with 36mm stanctions
4. Steel is real ? but might be flexy on a bike this size
5. I like the concept of the 2x10, I?ll be interested to hear how it works out.  If sold as frame only, people can choose traditional tandem drive train
6. Regarding the wheels ? wider the better, maybe Flows instead?
7. Alternator dropout might not be used frequently on a tandem, but if there is not a compromise in strength, then who cares?
8. Options for vertically challenged?
9. 203 rotors

I’d say put me on the list if I did not already have a 29er tandem on order

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Peter R | October 26th, 2010

I would forget about the singlespeeding option.  It just doesn’t make sense on a tandem.  This would probably reduce the need for the eccentric BB too.  I think that with a tandem the K.I.S.S. principle should prevail.
Looks like a good idea all around though.

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Jeff O'Gara | October 26th, 2010

I love hearing all of the comments posted about this bike, which is a great idea.  Some ideas are spot on and others I would have to completely disagree with, I have many of my own.  The singlespeed option is a must and for all of the naysayers, My partner and I won the Tandem class 2 years ago at the Chequamegon 40 on a cobbled together 26’ singlespeed. We are talking about racing again next year, maybe on this bike, drop me a line, you have my email.

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Brian | October 26th, 2010

Speaking as a past winner of the chequamegon 40 on a singlespeed tandem. I would keep the singlespeedability because there currently aren’t any options for retards like us other than to go full custom. Something that I would be first in line to buy would be the ability to run 26” snow bike wheels… again, it is totally ignorant why anybody would want to ride a tandem on snow and ice… but we surely would just because. Also, for some reason uptube tandems seem to track a little better due to the extra stiffness in the rear triangle. Do an internet search for “uptube” ibis tandem to see what this is.

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Pedal Barron | October 26th, 2010

I’ve been looking to replace my tandem; I think Rohloff (double eccentrics or sliding dropouts) is definitely the way to go. With the Rohloff, you can keep the advantages of right-side drive without sacrificing gear range and spacing. The ability to shift under any condition is so important with a tandem.

I’m also a big fan of S&S couplers for a tandem (or their equal) - getting it from place to place is too much of a pain otherwise. I too favor 26 over 29, but I’m not adamant on that; it’s just that with 135 spacing and a 32 spoke hub (albeit high flange and symmetrical with the Rohloff) 26 will produce a stronger wheel, especially with a beefy rim like a Velocity (Cliffhanger?). 26” tires are easy to find and the wheels pack easier for airline travel. I don’t thin your current proposed wheels 29” - 135 spacing - 10 speed cassette, will hold up on a tandem.

I personally would want a Rigid fork and rack mounts, but I think Salsa should offer both front suspension and rigid options. Similarly, while the back post shock is a must, the front post shock is a waste, at least to me.

Finally - there is the issue of braking. I don’t think you can do hydraulics and S&S. I guess then a mechanical like the BB7 would be best. The real issue with tandems and braking is slowing down on long descents without overheating the fluid, rotors, and or rims (depending on how you brake). My guess that a BB7 with extra thick 203 rotors and double pads (at least in the back) might work as a surrogate for the old Arai drum auxiliary brake - outdated but needed for tandems in the mountains. See Jeff B’s comments on this too.

I second the idea that a one-size-fits-all fits very few riders. Sorry, but bite the bullet and offer multiple frame sizes.

With some of the big guys cutting back on tandems and only the Santana’s, Co-Motions, and little guys like Ellsworth and Rodriguez left, there is a great need for more tandems out there. Good Luck!

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OlyBikes | October 26th, 2010

Nice! I was just wishing for an off-road tandem so I could go riding with my GF or nephews and stick together despite differences in fitness or skill. If static dropouts are stronger than an adjustable ones, use them. Chain tensioners will allow for IGH use, and would be “less inelegant” than a busted dropout! I wonder if you will run into problems with brake manufacturers who do not want to certify their discs for tandem use. I was surprised by a customer’s ability to boil Magura Gustavs on his Big Dummy set up for touring (big guy + big load = big heat). He switched to BB7s as a result. Tandem teams might not have as much finesse or ride as aggressively as they do singly, resulting in riding the brakes a lot which generates heat.

BTW, on the single-side of things, hopefully we’ll see brake manufacturers respond to the growing adventure market with DROP BAR lever hydraulics. Salsa, please communicate with them and help them understand the need!

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PinoyMTBiker Community | October 27th, 2010

Nice Tandem bike.

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Whizinater Watcher | October 27th, 2010

With a big bike like that I think many of the suggestions would help to better the ride.  Alloy frame for sure (I’ve ridden both steel and alloy tandems), tapered steerer, and thru axle fork.  I would also highly consider the 170mm rear hub as to keep that rear wheel as strong as possible. Throw out the single speed option as it appeals to almost no one on a tandem and only adds more potential for things to go wrong.  Throw on tons of bottle mounts, add rack mounts.  Keep it 29’er.

Frame size seems good if you are making just one frame, economics being what they are.

Then when you are done give one to my wife and I for the 40 next year.

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perttime | October 27th, 2010

Tapered head tubes…

I must have missed the memo on the ways it is superior to a straight 1.5”

You dont have to put a 180mm 1.5” fork into a 1.5” head tube. You can put a 1 1/8” or tapered fork in it, get headsets with different steering angles…

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RossC | October 28th, 2010

Looks pretty much like the 26” tandem I have built up but with big wheels.  Couple of points-if you are going to use it seriously off road, you will need wheels with chunkier rims and a lot more spokes.  I reckon 40+ spokes is the minimum on a 26” mtb tandem, and 29” rims have a reputation for being a fair bit weaker for the same axle spacing. I’m running 40 spoke sun-ringles on my 26”, and they are good enough (just). It’s hard to ‘ride light’ on a tandem!!!

Bike looks underbraked for a heavy crew.  I’m running a 4-pot hydro up front on an 8” rotor, and XT v-brakes on the back (‘cause its an old frame, but also because….arai drum brakes!!!)-the disk v-brake combo gives the power and feel for control on short downhills and technical stuff, but for long, fast, steep runs, tandems need the added heat dissipation of an arai drum brake on the back to keep things sane. So I use a old-school threaded tandem hub.

I agree with the other guy that you dont need the thudbuster up front. Consider running the longest travel post you can on the back though-I’ve got the 3.5” T-B on ours and it works well in conjunction with a 100mm fork.

Oh, and I’d stick with the LH location for the timing chain. Having to run tandem cranks is no biggie, and that frees up the RHS for the option of a proper granny gear on the tandem - especially when running the big wheels..

Anyway, all good fun…...

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Whizinater Watcher | October 28th, 2010

I just thought of something else Whiz, couplers.  Tandems are such a pain to travel with whether in the car, shipping, or plane.  You would definitely add a level of interest with the couplers.  If you figured out a system like Ritchey uses that would be more awesomer.

Oh, and since everyone is mentioning the components even though you specifically said it had nothing to do with final spec, I would take off the Specialized cages and put on your own.  Also, match the cranks and align the rear tire logo with the tube valve. 

And to perttime, the reason for the taper is that the added stiffness from the increased diameter is most noticeable in the bottom part of the headtube, allowing for increased stem options.

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perttime | October 28th, 2010

Whizinater Watcher, having a tapered steerer - allowing 1 1/8” stems - does not necessitate a tapered head tube.

If you are looking for the max in versatility, straight 1.5” wins. It does not have to weigh more than tapered and is probably easier to produce, too, and allows more welding area in case you want to increase strength in the front. Of course, tapered head tubes are fashionable now ... which is a good reason to have it, I guess.

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Pedal Barron | October 28th, 2010

A thought about frame material and overall geometry. The loads on a tandem are significantly greater than on a single bike. While the geometry may be El Mariachi-based, the tubing will need to be different. Rodriguez makes a convertible (single to tandem) for expedition touring, but the single is a lot heavier than it needs to be. To go the other way will result in a poor-performing tandem.

A recent development in tandem geometry worth looking at is the “open frame” design (Calfee, daVinci, Co-Motion Periscope). Here there is no middle “double lateral” tube (Santana, Rodriguez, Bilenky, most everyone else). daVinci for one accomplishes this by using super-over sized top and bottom tubes. The results are represented to be lighter, stiffer, and cleaner. It also works better for S&S couplers (4 instead of 6) and probably for a Ritchey-like coupling system as well.

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PMK | October 29th, 2010

Tim, thanks for sharing both here and on MTBR’s tandem forum.

Lot of good feedback for you to go with.

It is a neat bike.


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PMK | October 29th, 2010

FWIW, as I believe someone else mentioned, it would be a big plus for those that do ride tandems, to have some additional options for simple stuff like stoker stems (non adjustable with good angles and proper seatube diameters) even if done as some kind of special order.  Stronger or better chainrings would be a treat also. 

Taking the 2x9 or 2x10 all right side drive to be dialed in,(ours on the Fandango is very close but will need a few handmade items for great shifts every time without worry).

We run super low gearing and forfeit the mega tall gearing on our 2x9 right side drive.  We have a good spread of gearing on account of our front chainring sizes.  For us, top gear at 100% rpm of the cranks is worth 25 / 26 mph which is fine.  On our Fandango, unless it’s a smooth downhill road, anything above 20 mph we are coasting with pedals flat.  The Ventana ECDM is another story, with a triple front and full suspension, we’ve turned the pedals a few times on rough singletrack in top gear.  Not for long but suspension affords that ability to see some pretty fast speeds when gravity is helping.


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Craig Smith | October 30th, 2010

About the only way I could get my GF to ride with me in the Winter would be…
If you built a Mukluk tandem.

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MAGpie | October 31st, 2010

An affordable steel 29er tandem based on the Fargo(Woodchippers,suspension corrected rigid fork, braze-ons for racks,fenders,and several water bottles) would create an immediate cult following!I’ve been saving up for a Co-Motion PeriScope Scout with 700c rims…I’m now crossing my fingers and holding out for a tandem Fargo.

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GalNannaSix | November 2nd, 2010

This book and film are about the recent emergence of teenage prostitution rings in affluent Canadian suburbs.

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Whizinater Watcher | November 2nd, 2010

GalNannaSix, does the book have pictures, or should I just keep to the film?

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christophv. | November 7th, 2010

i don’t like the look of tappered headtubes ....
if really necessary (for strength or more fork options) go for a bigger headtube .

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dicky | November 7th, 2010

zero stack HT, ZS upper cup, Cane Creek XX44 lower for a tapered steer tube?

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skwurrl | November 14th, 2010

what are bb heights? looks great ss dropouts are a cool option as long as they are durable.

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Aaron | November 15th, 2010

Sign me up!

I would like to see 145 rear spacing. A more Fargo-ish model would be awesome too, although I am lovin the front suspension. A geometry that could accommodate stokers 5’9” and up would make it even better. At least 4 water bottle mounts please. And paint it orange.

I look forward to buying one.

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350-050 | December 13th, 2010

Stronger rims- especially for off-road use. It?s hard to ride with finesse on a tandem and rocks would likely kill these wheels. Also- is tubeless a good idea when your total team weight will likely be in the 300-400lb range

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lieven | December 16th, 2010

i’m considering a 29 inch tandem also, a Fandango is in my mind….
Any experences with 29 Fandango here..?

ps;Me and my partner did some nice tandem mtb trips on our 26 tandem
pic’s here….

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Brian100mph | March 8th, 2011

I converted a KHS Tandemania 700c cross tandem into a 29er.  It’s got a rigid carbon fork with disc brake upgrade and custom velocity wheels.  Love it!  We hit the mtb singletrack at midnight and drink beers afterwards!  I think it was a Fandango that we beat to win a gold medal at the Michigan State Games.

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lieven | March 9th, 2011

@brian; nice to hear you use a rigid fork ! can you tell more about the fork…;is it a tandem rated fork? or just a 29 fork that you put into the KHS. i ask this because for a far as i know there’s only one tandem 29 ner fork a this moment and that’s the White Brothers one….it’s a not rigid one.

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Brian100mph | March 9th, 2011

I am using an Origin8 Black Ops fork.  It’s the J&B house brand that knocks off the White Brothers carbon fork.  I’ve been using one on my reg 29er for 2 years and ordered a 2nd for the tandem.  The newest version has a clamped on pair of v-brake posts.  The fork arrived at a slightly heavier weight than advertised.  Upon calling, it was explained that the fork legs were thicker than before due to the externally clamped bosses.  Cool, even sturdier for my… umm… new 29er. :)  One full season with 75% of the miles on Michigan singletrack after the sun goes down and all is well!

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Brian100mph | March 10th, 2011

So it’s late and I’m thinking about my tandems some more. On my 26” Burley tandem I decided to use a 135 wheel and let the frame pinch in a little.  Lots more wheel options were already hanging in my garage with 135.  But now I see full sus 29ers like the Specialized Epic using a 142 through axle rear end.  That would be worth considering on a brand new Salsa tandem.  And a tapered head tube with a 15-thru fork/hub. Any thoughts on something like that?

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Hurricane Jeff | March 31st, 2011

Nice tandem, although my wife would never, ever go back to hardtail tandem. Are current tandem is a Vetana El Testigo, this bike is awesome.
I liked the idea of running a 2X10 system with a 3rd inner chainring for the timing chain, how has that system worked? I have been condemplating going that route myself.
The SS drop-outs are not such a bad idea, back at the 1999 SSWC there were us and 4 other tandems converted to SS…..we ended up winning!

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Andrew | May 10th, 2011

Are there any updates for this frame?  I’d still like to see it come to market, and I’ve been working on the wife to convince her a tandem is a good thing (except after a night of heavy beer drinking).

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DeeEight | January 18th, 2012

Could you not have made it a 650B tandem instead? You’d get stronger wheels in the process and still have better roll-over/handling than a 26er tandem.

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Laurent | March 20th, 2012

Hi Tim,
Looks great. Love it! Exactly the sort of tandem I am looking for. We are now riding a French Lapierre for the last 6 years. I drive the last 2 years on a 2x9 (22-36 front) as you do, runs beautifully. Also have an old 700c steel frame running fantastically. So looking for a steel 29er for MTB.
Options would be: 135mm x 12mm, 1.5mm headset (or conical) for 150mm fork, front and back eccentric BB (can fit a Rohloff). Thudbuster rules for the lady on the back!
If you need a test driver for europe, mail us!
BTW, EMD (Italy) also markets 29er alu tandem. But I would prefer steel…
Cheers, Laurent.

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Andrew Savage | April 3rd, 2012

Any updates on the testing? 

I have the El Mariachi and love it and me and the wife are just getting into tandem riding.  This would be a lovely up-grade from our starter tandem.

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Seb | April 5th, 2012

Riding a Tandem Cannondale with my wife (1200km/year), riding a Scott tandem in a MTB race with a friend (132km/5000m up hill and of course 5000 dh…). Riding MTB, road bike, ... (I’ve broken 12 frames: 3 road and 9 mtb). Actually the tandem is a Cannondale and I’m not satisfied with it (corrosion after 6 year), I’m considering to purchase an other tandem and I will look at the following points :

1. Space at the rear wheel 145, better 160mm and 12 axle.

2. 36 Spoke-wheels with wide rims (enduro-freeride).

3. Stoker-compartment long enough.

4. 3x10 speeds to allow smaller gear change…

5. Suspension-seatpost for the stoker.

6. Tapered headtube.

7. Aluminium big tube for torsional stiffness (but good aluminium quality…).

8. 203 rotors.

9. Enough place for bottles.

10. Most important a good design for the frame (same as you have done).

11. Because I use it 95% on road (with my wife), a good rigide fork with a 15mm axle (would be interesting to test a special 110-120mm front hub…).

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Kurt | June 8th, 2012

everything looks like a great start. seems the alternator drop-out could allow for different widths: the rohloff version would be 135 for its needs and a “standard dropout” could be 145 to match tandem hubs and they could bolt onto the same frame right? I also agree with the comment of a one piece transit tube, but perhaps that is a non-issue. my big question is sizing. There are almost no same size captain-stoker tandems that i know of,  my current bike is a 18-16 and as a rider who likes the front and back seat I always wish i weren’t so cramped while stoking.

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